Diabetes and the Dentist

Updated: Jun 26


Diabetes is a disease that affects approximately 1.7millon Australians over the age of 18. It costs Australians in total $14.6 billion per annum (yep that’s billion with a b), is a leading cause of preventable blindness and has far-reaching, long term health implications limiting an individual’s lifestyle. But what does it have to do with your dentist?

Diabetes is categorised broadly as Type 1 (loss of pancreatic function and auto-immune in nature) and Type 2 (reduced insulin effectiveness and volume) which is the preventable form of diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas, which produces insulin, either isn’t functioning or the insulin produced isn’t effective. The role of insulin in the body is to help transport sugar/glucose into cells where is it then used for energy to allow us ti function properly or it is stored in the liver, muscles and fat for use later. This chronic disease affects every system in the body as it primarily mucks up how the body gets energy into the cells and limiting the energy source of our cells. This prevents the proper functioning of the cells in our organs and tissues and also affects the healing of tissue.

So the obvious question, what does all of this have to do with my dental care?

Let’s start with diet. High levels of sugars in our diets create spikes in the demands placed on our pancreas to deal with the increase sugar/glucose, this places stress on the pancreas and over time can “wear it out” putting you at risk of developing diabetes. The oral implications of a high sugar diet are well known and include high rates of dental decay, fillings, and increased risk of gum disease. Secondly, those individuals who have already developed diabetes are now at higher risks of gum disease as the healing response is delayed, meaning that the gum inflammation remains chronic and unresolved leading to worse and worse gum disease. As we know, severe gum disease can then lead to tooth loss.

Most importantly, a huge body of scientific evidence outlines the unresolved inflammation in the gums from periodontitis (gum disease) leads to an increase in the chemical signals (cytokines). Cytokines are used by the body to initiate and direct an inflammatory response. When cytokine numbers remain really high for long periods of time, as they do in gum disease, they spill over into the vascular system. This leads to a potential burden of inflammation with cytokine signalling on other areas of the body. The problem is that cytokines alter the effectiveness of insulin, effectively leading to yet even higher rates of sugar/glucose in the blood and not in the cell worsening the diabetic condition and blood glucose levels, worsening the gum disease as the cells can’t heal and the cycle goes on!

So where do we go from here? Everything is connected so don’t take your health for granted. Diet is key, eat the right foods (we know what they are). Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and make sure you visit the GP regularly for check-ups. Finally, if you have or know someone that has Diabetes make sure they visit their dental professional for regular check-ups. We can help to identify dental disease early and mitigate the risks affecting your diabetic condition. A great body of research has shown the improvement of diabetic control (HbA1c) in individuals with diabetes by simply maintaining a disease-free mouth and gums.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the team at Channon Lawrence Dental to chat about your oral health.

Article Written by Jason Alfrey

Jason is a Consulting Oral Health Therapist at Channon Lawrence Dental. He has practiced in the region for 15 years. Jason provides general dental care to all ages with specific interests in children’s dentistry, Minimal Intervention Dentistry, Periodontal Care (Gum Care) and management of the ageing dentition.




Sources

Diabetes Australia 2020, accessed 6 June 2020

https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au

Genco, R.J, Sanz, M. (2020) Clinical and Public health implications of periodontal and systemic diseases. An overview. Periodontology 2000. 2020(83) 7-13.

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